PhD - Industrial Design Engineering
The PhD programme is closely linked with the research activity at the Department of Design. Research fields, to name a few, are:
- Design methodology
- Interaction design (Man Machine)
- Design strategy
Interested? - Contact us
The Department of Design encourages interested candidates that are interested in enrolling in our doctoral programme to contact the department. Candidates with (1) excellent research ideas/proposals that can be tied to the department's focus areas, and (2) who posess the relevant background (curriculum vitae) are likely to receive an invitation for further discussion. We strongly encourage you to include a funding plan with your research proposal, as generally, the department is not in the position to directly allocate funding to PhD positions.
For information regarding the programme structure, applicable rules and forms, see the doctoral programme pages for the Faculty of Architecture and Design.
Review and response
It should be noted that, although all applications will be read, candidates that send application e-mails which are not in line with the above, will receive a polite but standard rejection message, or no answer at all.
For more information you can contact:
Lucy Chamberlin successfully defended her doctoral thesis on 2 June 2021 at the Department of Design, NTNU.
”Transforming Consumption: Design for engagement, meaning and action in a circular economy”
The Secretary General of the UN recently warned that humanity is waging a ‘suicidal’ war on nature and placed tackling climate change at the heart of the organisation’s global mission (Rowlatt, 2020). Time for action is quickly running out, as it becomes increasingly likely that the Earth’s temperature will increase beyond the critical 2°C limit and catastrophic fires, floods, pollution, desertification, ocean acidification, biodiversity collapse and all of the associated impacts become the new normal.
Against this backdrop, the concept of a circular economy has been popularised particularly amongst businesses and policymaking communities (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2020; European Commission, 2020) over the last ten years as a way to interpret and implement sustainability whilst simultaneously creating economic benefits. Nevertheless, until recently the role of the consumer and the place of consumption within a circular economy has largely been neglected by research, despite its seminal positioning in many CE models. Likewise the role of design has been acknowledged as critical in creating new products and services for a circular economy, but has also been focused more on production (e.g. materials and business models) than consumption (e.g. people’s interaction with their material surroundings or the culture and behaviours of consumers and how these are influenced). Furthermore, CE has not yet taken account of the limits of trying to decouple GDP growth from environmental impacts and the need to address overconsumption with a more sufficiency-based approach, particularly in more affluent global communities.
Behavioural economics and consumer culture research shows that consumers are not merely rational automatons with sovereign control but complex, unpredictable human entities; both consumption and design literature suggest that people usually act according to meaning and emotion rather than information and rationale, and that other priorities often supersede sustainable values or consumption intentions. However, such insights have been somewhat neglected by green marketeers hoping to engage with mainstream consumers and also by the subfield of sustainable consumption which has in the main relied upon psychological theories in researching and instigating behaviour change or engaging people with alternative consumption. Conventional marketing has succeeded in creating new needs and niches to be filled with stuff by equating products with happiness or fulfilment, but this equation has been shown to be flawed. Human wellbeing is a complex concept which cannot be sated by material objects – yet material objects are also more than just functional, and people’s relationship with them is complex.
Design for Behaviour Change and Design for Sustainable Behaviour have made use of various cognitive but also social and practice theories to encourage behaviour or practice change for sustainability. The majority of focus however has been on individual approaches which either provide neutral information or ‘nudge’ the person into a new behaviour by controlling their context or choice architecture, with less attention paid to the meanings which trigger emotion and influence action. As cultural intermediaries, designers along with other social communicators play a key role in creating and inculcating meaning and influencing fashion, taste and consumption. Although it has been accused of encouraging overconsumption, design may also be seen as having a responsibility and a role in encouraging or allowing actions that are in line with planetary boundaries as well as social wellbeing, engaging people with ‘circular’ (and sufficient) forms of consumption, and addressing the meaning of people’s material possessions and the stories behind them.
This thesis therefore asks in what ways design can contribute to engaging people with new forms of consumption as part of a circular economy.
The papers in the thesis review different ways in which design can engage people with more circular consumption, using a variety of qualitative and design-based methodologies. Study 1 newly connects the emerging fields of circular economy and Design for Sustainable Behaviour research, and shows that frameworks such as the nine Dimensions of Behaviour Change or Design with Intent may provide useful indicators or strategies for engagement by businesses wishing to sell circular products or services to customers. A further paper in this study addresses various communications strategies in the context of a circular economy, particularly the use of visual rhetoric and storytelling to increase persuasiveness, prompt emotion or discussion and engage people throughout the customer journey. Study 2 researches the cultural phenomenon of the Marie Kondo decluttering method and places the consumer as designer, or rather re-designer, of their material home environments. Taking a practice-based approach to consumption, it explores the topic of sufficiency and the connection between wellbeing and sustainability. Results indicate that reflecting on what brings the participants joy, and indeed ritualising the process, can reorientate their relationship with and interpretations of consumption at different phases and even lead to significantly reduced acquisition. Study 3 takes the shape of a physical exhibition in which speculative and activist design approaches are used to explore futures of clothing in a localised context following an iterative process of prototyping and user research. Familiar scenarios of clothing combined with elements of storytelling, fun and interaction prompt visitors to imagine future shops in the town and then reflect on their own feelings towards what they wear and how this influences their actions. Once again, meaning emerges as a key ingredient of action.
By focusing on different theoretical or design perspectives through the three studies, it is found that behavioural, practice theory and cultural or future-focused approaches can all provide useful insights into how people may be engaged with consumption change. As the different studies make clear, whether through image, story, performance or material interaction, design has the capacity to engage imagination, prompt emotion and encourage reflection in ways that go beyond traditional modes of communication as fact-based transmission. Through such interventions, design thus has the ability to engage people more directly and to support consumers and users as well as businesses and the public sector to discover new meanings which lead to new actions as part of the consumption process, hereby playing a critical role in facilitating the transition to a circular economy.
Marie Hebrok defended her doctoral thesis on June 10 at the Department of Design, NTNU:
”Food Waste: A practice-oriented design for sustainability approach”
This dissertation develops a practice-oriented design for sustainability (PODS) approach to explore opportunities for reducing household food waste by design. Through this approach it has produced narratives of current and possible future food-related practices that have been co-created with participants in order to elicit opportunities for design interventions. The narratives provide insights into how food waste occurs within the flow and rhythm of everyday life, how it is entangled in a web of interrelated practices and conflicting ideals, and how practices could be reconfigured in the future by design - imagining not only incremental innovations but also new ways of food consumption. Moreover, in light of the food waste case, it reflects on what the theoretical underpinnings of PODS mean for current and future ways of addressing sustainable consumption issues by design.
Two routes towards reducing food waste by design are identified, which are not mutually exclusive. The first route consists of product-level and product-service-level innovations, such as the ones that can already be seen in packaging, labelling, fridge/freezer technology, apps, box scheme services and online grocery shopping services. The second route entails reimagining and reconfiguring food-related practices more profoundly. This route involves rethinking how we go about provisioning for food, when and where we eat, how and where food is stored, etc.
The research presented in this dissertation has implications for actors working on issues related to sustainable consumption in general and on household food waste and food consumption in particular. It can be of interest to policymakers, non-governmental organisations, various actors in the food industry, and to commercial and public innovators of products and services seeking to contribute to sustainable consumption.
By making explicit the elements which practices entail and how they cause inertia and represent opportunities for change, it is argued that social practice theory provides a framework for increasing understanding and unpacking the complexity inherent in the role of practices in wicked design problems. Furthermore, that providing these insights enables us to approach the design problem in both incremental and radical ways, moving from ideas of product/service-user interactions to ideas of new ways of living.
The dissertation is based on a total of four articles: three peer-reviewed and published journal articles, and one submitted journal article. The research has been conducted in Norway.
Juana Camacho-Otero defended her thesis over two days in June with her trial on 22 June and the defence on 23 June.
"Redrawing the circle. Integrating a consumption perspective into the circular economy"
With the rise of the circular economy, an initiative that aims at improving resource efficiency and thus, sustainability, a significant amount of research has been conducted about how businesses, cities, countries and regions can transition towards a circular future. Existing definitions of the circular economy do include the concept of consumption or specifically indicate that it is enabled by responsible consumers, besides business models. However, not much has been done describing what the circular economy means for consumption processes, for consumers, and policy initiatives supporting sustainable consumption. This lack of consideration of the consumption side of the circular economy results in the creation and development of solutions and interventions that may not address consumer needs, which can, in turn, prevent the diffusion of circular offerings and interventions. This research project aimed at expanding the knowledge about consumption in the specific context of the circular economy, and it does so by providing insights into three aspects. First, what are the implications of circularity for the consumption process? Second, what are the factors and conditions that enable the acceptance and the adoption of circular offerings by consumers? Lastly, how design tools for circularity incorporate consumption and consumers considerations that can help them create solutions that have a user perspective? The thesis comprises six papers addressing these three topics. The first study was a systematic literature review of the state of the art. Papers 2, 3 and 6 address the second research question about factors and conditions for acceptance and adoption by consumers. Papers 2 and 6 focus on consumer acceptance factors for two product categories, clothes and toys while paper 3 addresses conditions and processes of adoption for a circular practice, clothes swapping, using a social practice perspective. Paper 4 focuses on how consumption changes in a circular economy context based on the analysis of actions performed to access clothes. Paper 5 addressed the question about how circular design tools can integrate these concepts of the consumption process, consumer acceptance factors and adoption of circular practices.
Some of the findings presented in these papers include that the consumption process in the circular economy is not only about acquiring, using and disposing of products as suggested before, but it includes additional moments of appropriation,appreciation, devaluation and divestment within the using moment of consumption. Additionally, the process by which the circular economy and circular offerings are going to become mainstream and diffuse in society consists of at least two moments, acceptance and adoption. By having this dual approach, a zoom-in approach, that looks into the individual aspects that drive acceptance and a zoom-out approach to look for the conditions that enable circular offerings to become part of a practice and thus being adopted, circular economy stakeholders can better integrate relevant consumption and consumer considerations. Finally, the analyzed circular design tools are more focused on the production and technical process and don't guide how to engage consumption and consumer aspects.
From these findings, it is suggested that circular design tools acknowledge there is a consumption process for the solution they are creating by using the six-moment consumption process, so they can identify what it is that the consumer needs to do concerning their solution. Then they should zoom out and investigate the context of the circular offering and see what elements characterize the practice that serves as the context for the offering (the images, skills,material). It is also essential that they understand how the linkages between those elements can be intervened to facilitate. First, the integration of the offering into the context and second, they must find ways for that new practices to recruit people.
Sofie Østergaard succesfully defended her doctoral thesis on 30 October 2019, at the Department of Design, NTNU:
"The role of consumer behaviour in reducing the waste of fresh bread: Sustainable packaging development in an industrial perspective"
Food waste and possible solutions towards reducing food waste particularly on consumer level has been a rising topic in the society the last decade. The thesis explores the role of how consumer behaviour, shopping habits and preferences influence the waste of fresh bread on household level and how sustainable packaging development may contribute towards reducing edible waste of bread at home. The thesis uses multiple exploratory consumer studies, pilot tests, laboratory studies as well as quantitative studies. The main audience of this thesis is stakeholders in the food industry, design students, politicians or anyone that have an interest in understanding the complexity of food waste and wishes to learn more about sustainable food systems.
Faheem Ali defended his doctoral thesis on 28 August at the Department of Industrial Design, NTNU:
”Exploring the role of company context for informing Design for Sustainability implementation”
Companies are increasingly taking on a sustainability journey in their operations. Design for Sustainability (DfS) has been one such prominent response from companies to address the challenges of sustainability. The thesis uses insights from seven case companies in Norway and Denmark to understand the different contextual elements in a DfS implementation scenario. The thesis further adds on to the academic discourse on DfS by presenting insights from five different adjacent fields of study and how it can contribute to DfS implementation. The main audience of this thesis are DfS researchers and management consultants working with sustainability implementation in companies.
Casper Boks (Prof.), Department of Design
Niki Bey (assoc. Prof..) Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU)
Raphaëlle Stewart defended her doctoral thesis on 20 March 2019:
"Integration of Sustainability Approaches in Companies: An Exploration of Narratives and Internal Organizational Functioning”
Intensively discussed in the international scene, as illustrated with the Sustainable Development Goals launched by the United Nations, sustainable development and sustainability have been well established as central topics for our societies. Recent scientific work urges to reduce environmental sustainability pressures so that Earth’s life-supporting functions can be maintained, and economies and societies nested in the Earth system can keep thriving. The role of companies in supporting the transition towards sustainable societies has been emphasized by researchers, policy-makers and companies themselves. In this context, companies increasingly develop their own sustainability approaches. Sustainability approaches can take various forms such as environmental management, sustainable supply chain management, and cleaner production. In this PhD project, a product life cycle perspective was taken, which relates to viewing companies as the major providers of goods and services (hereafter referred to as “products”), with their embedded life cycles, in our economies. The decisions made during the product development activities have typically been considered to determine a large share of products’ environmental sustainability impacts along their life cycle. Hence, companies have a key role to play through the development and delivery of products, which is the focus of ecodesign research. Sustainability approaches can be researched on different layers, ranging from internal organizational functioning, over operational sustainability practices and companies’ narratives, to functioning of the overall business ecosystem. In this PhD project, sustainability approaches from a product life cycle perspective were researched based on two different layers of sustainability approaches, namely company narratives and internal organizational functioning.
Together, the two tracks of this PhD project had in common to allow “getting closer to companies”- to the companies’ understanding of how to best present their sustainability efforts, and to the companies’ internal organizational functioning, respectively. This PhD research provides complementary insights on how to strengthen the integration of sustainability approaches in industry, from a product life cycle perspective. The first track identified the need for an increased use of life cycle thinking in companies’ narratives for critical analyses and reflections about existing product life cycle systems, and the environmental sustainability challenges they are associated with. The second track paved the way for further testing of the analytical and practical value of the four-lens view of organizations to investigate and support ecodesign integration in companies, with a broad horizon of what internal organizational functioning entails. These two tracks were conducted independently to a great extent, and opportunities for their cross-linking are outlined for future research.
Anne Carlijn Vis
Anne Carlijn Vis defended her doctoral thesis 3 December at the Department of Design, NTNU:
”Matching Intentions with Experience – a Human-Centered Service Design Approach to Shared Decision Making ”
Demographic change towards an older population and increasing prevalence of life-style related diseases lead to changing needs for medical care. Simultaneously, medical practice is moving away from paternalistic decision making. Patients and their next-of-kin are increasingly invited to become active agents in treatment decisions. This practice is called Shared Decision Making (SDM).
Chronic Kidney Failure (CKF) is used as an example to investigate the implementation of SDM practice in chronic care. SDM is being promoted among others in Norway (Leivestad, 2013) and the United States. However, a systematic review that covered studies from various countries, conveyed that patients with CKF and their next-of-kin have frequently reported a lack of choice. Moreover, others have claimed that best practices on effective approaches to information dissemination and knowledge acquisition for patients with CKF are lacking. Furthermore, regarding SDM in general, there is a need to investigate how patients and their next-of-kin are best supported in making a choice, as only providing information is not enough.
The aim of this thesis is to reach a better understanding of aspects that can support the (re)design of pre-treatment education and decision-support programs for chronic patients and their next-of-kin. This is done by investigating existing interventions that provide pretreatment education and/or decision support to patients and their next-of-kin from a humancentred design perspective. Emphasis is placed on the situation in Norway.
Martha Skogen defended her thesis 6 June 2017 at the Department of Design, NTNU:
"Do You See What I See? Investigations into the Underlying Parameters of Visual Simplicity"
Motivated by a longstanding interest in timeless design, this research focused on visual simplicity due to its potential as a core value of a design’s longevity. Multiple studies were conducted to investigate how people view, interpret, and understand visual stimuli, with simplicity as a fundamental aesthetic approach. The research goal was to uncover what the underlying components of visual simplicity may be, and how people judge those components. The research into visual simplicity is rooted in the following questions:
I. What is visual simplicity and what are the graphic design parameters that determine it?
II. How do people interpret visual simplicity?
III. Does everyone agree?
The range of visual stimuli tested here included aspects of the real world as well as the computer realm. The stimuli included (in order): CD covers, architecture and/or public spaces, miniaturized poster art, graphical user interface (‘GUI’) screen layouts and GUI icons. The initial studies included adult participants only. Results revealed a consistency in responses: In both the real world and GUI realms, adults answered consistently that “simple” design meant a scant amount of detail and minimal use of line, color, and other graphic design parameters— whereas “complicated” visual design meant the opposite. For adults, there seemed to be a reliable set of design parameters that when combined, elicited a “simple” or “complicated” response to a visual design, regardless of media. However, the final set of studies revealed an unforeseen phenomenon: youths ( ≤ age 13) did not respond consistently with adults. In general, youths did not consistently associate detail-scant GUI icons with simplicity, but in many cases with being more complicated. This revealed a possibility that people go through a period of transition during which they change their interpretations of minimalized, abstracted imagery and then associate those characteristics with being “simple”. This phenomenon led to a discussion regarding the potential existence of ‘visual archetypes’ and how they might be interpreted by viewers of various ages. ‘Visual archetypes’ refer to a design that uses the least amount of visual information required to communicate the message.
The contributions of this doctoral research include:
• expanded awareness of design parameters that are associated with the relationship between visual Simplicity-Complicated
• insight into the emotional aspects connected with visual Simplicity-Complicated
• awareness that not all viewers interpret Simplicity-Complicated identically (age-based differences were revealed—there may be other differences)
• recognition of the possibility for unintentional design presumptions
• discussion of visual archetypes
This research contributes to the design community by demonstrating that people can interpret design differently than designers might presume and/or intend. Although the research raises awareness of potential interpretive differences between children and (primarily) midlife adults, the discussion can perhaps apply to seniors as well. Importantly, the research revealed that children are highly capable interpreters of our culturally- and computer-based visual information.
Daniela Blauhaut defended her doctoral thesis 10 May 2016:
«Handheld devices for use within integrated operations in the petroleum industry»
Handheld devices have been used for several years in integrated operations in the petroleum industry. There is little knowledge of the effects of their design on efficient and safe plant operation, however. Moreover, little is known about how operators evaluate design and usability of mobile devices to support their work. The objective of this research work is to investigate how the design of handheld devices affects working routines to facilitate efficient and safe operations at gas processing plants and to what extent their use improve current procedures and satisfies users’ needs.
For the purpose of creating design criteria for future product development, the research includes the collection and analysis of data on existing collaborative work practices in safety critical environments and evaluation studies of handheld devices that are currently used by operators on Norwegian land facilities. The criteria are based on theory and interviews, observation material, and video data from three ethnographic fieldwork studies conducted at the Ormen Lange and Hammerfest LNG onshore processing plants. The data were analysed using techniques from ethnographic analysis, video analysis, and design. The thesis seeks to show relationships by taking a holistic view of human-computer interaction (HCI). It brings interaction with the real world - including sensory experience - into the focus of attention when designing future products. Creative decisions, in particular for mobile communication technologies, should be based upon theoretical considerations of the life world, embodiment, and Gestalt theory as well as on frameworks such as Distributed cognition and Activity theory because they are important for correct and effective use of technical devices. Handheld devices used in industrial contexts should be designed to support task performance rather than device performance. To succeed, the focus should, on the one hand, be on physical space in which work is done and on established procedures. On the other hand, user experiences and behavioural patterns as well as users’ mobility should be taken into account. A logical outcome of this is simplification of technology complexity.
The aim of this research work is not to provide innovative technology but rather to emphasise the impacts of mobile technologies on people and business goals as well as on the physical and social environment in which technologies are used. The thesis is written from a design perspective and suggests aims for the design of handheld devices for use in the oil and gas industry. It presents a complex theoretical and empirical research and shows the dimensions that must be considered when designing seemingly small devices in order to meet their requirements. To answer the problem statement of the thesis, material from the fields of philosophy, cognitive science, and design theory was used and related to the empirical data collected from fieldwork studies. Based on a comprehensive design and context analysis, knowledge about handheld devices used in a hazardous work setting and information about user experiences is presented and data on the activity system of field operators provided. Finally, design criteria for handheld devices are suggested and three concepts of mobile devices evaluated to identify their opportunities and challenges.
The research results show why it is necessary to design mobile technology from a user’s perspective. There is, however, a need for more empirical research in time-constrained, datadrive environments where people are required to perceive data rapidly in fast-paced situations. In order to provide people with well-designed equipment, human aspects will have to play a greater role in technology development and in design and engineering sciences.
Brita Fladvad Nielsen
Brita Fladvad Nielsen defended her doctoral thesis 27 October 2015, at NTNU:
"FRAMING HUMANITARIAN ACTION THROUGH DESIGN THINKING"
When we are searching for knowledge about other peoples and reasons, it is largely motivated by an underlying need to understand ourselves. In humanitarian aid we want to know, how we can provide the most help. Even after decades with a lack of clear evidence that aid helps, and knowing the dependencies and corruption it may feed, we do not discuss whether we should help, we keep searching for a better way to help. Perhaps desperately, we want to find a way for communities to reach our level of wellbeing. Individually, we want know that what we do matters.
Humanitarian staff seek a way to save lives. Refugees want services that will take them out of the refugee camp. The socioeconomic development of the refugee depends on the opportunities given, while the socioeconomic development of the region and larger context surrounding the refugee camp depends on stimulating the dynamic between the agendas in the larger picture. A missing link between the concern and effect is how knowledge flows between the relevant stakeholder groups. Knowing how separate agendas can link to affect humanitarian values requires the acknowledgment of the refugee and the host community as stakeholders in humanitarian action, and a consideration of where information is accessible within the system.
While humanitarian organizations, NGO stakeholders and many enterprises want to help, they are not aware of the extent and the significance of systemic and contextual problems inherent in the refugee’s situation. Humanitarian customers do not have a routine method for providing this information. Refugees do not know how to get out of their situation in the constructed refugee camp reality; one that promises personal development but rejects real opportunities. Humanitarian staff in the refugee camps want to help but cannot because of lack of power, lack of influence in decision making and lack of information access and knowledge.
This research has provided a way to understand humanitarian action on a small and large scale. Depending on which part of humanitarian action one wishes to effect, Agenda Spaces can be useful when desiring to affect longer term products and services within humanitarian action. The resulting framework helps distinguish design for humanitarian action focusing on low resource settings from other design challenges such as design for the bottom of the pyramid or design for marginalized populations.
Alf Ove Braseth
23 January 2015, Alf Ove Braseth defended his doctoral thesis:
A Concept for Large-Screen Display Graphics: Design Principles and Graphic Elements for Real-World Complex Processes"
The objective in this thesis research is to mitigate two problems, which are typically experienced by control room operators monitoring large-scale processes in centralized control rooms:
i) How to design for rapid perception of industrial-scale data sets?
ii) How to avoid keyhole effects in complex processes?
In this thesis, these problems are approached through research into Large-Screen Display (LSD) design; the contribution is a concept named Information-Rich Design (IRD).The concept is not domain specific, and it is useable typically for nuclear and petroleum industries. IRD can be used as a starting point for user-centred design, as opposed to approaching the problem from the technology end first.
The thesis research is based on a broad perspective, through interaction design research methods: design exploration, design studies and design practice. Design exploration was done on a small-scale early in the research process, and later through three complete LSD applications. The first two LSDs were implemented on full-scale nuclear simulators, and the most recent was implemented for an operational nuclear research reactor. Crews of certified control room operators have provided feedback for design in an iterative research process.
Design studies were based on findings from basic, applied and clinical research:
(1) human capabilities and characteristics
(2) principles for information visualization
(3) findings from human-computer interaction
(4) research from other related display concepts
Design practice from applying IRD commercially in Norwegian petroleum industry was fed back into the concept. The thesis research suggests that LSDs should be designed from the ground-up, acting as a stable frame of reference for process monitoring, leaving details for desktop workstations. Research found that larger displays should support bottom-up data driven processes by presenting process data as simple visual patterns, suitable for rapid visual perception. Further, LSDs should support operators in top-down search for information, and aim to avoid keyhole effects through externalized graphics, which do not load limited visual memory resources. Graphics should reduce visual complexity by creating visual hierarchies, giving critical information the most prominent visual salience, while avoiding masking primary data from less important information. Based on this, the contribution for LSD designs, are design principles and accompanying graphics. The IRD concept is theoretically validated, and externally validated through industrial applications and user tests.
Johannes Ludvig Zachrisson Daae
Johannes Ludvig Zachrisson Daae defended his doctoral thesis 29 April 2014 at NTNU:
"Informing Design for Sustainable Behaviour"
This doctoral thesis is written for design practitioners and researchers who are interested in how the design of products can make people use them in the most sustainable way.
The main purpose of the thesis is to describe how the individual pieces of research described in the published papers, together contribute to answering the research questions and contribute to new insight to the research field.